Short Last Names Beginning With N

This article is about short last names beginning with N that are under five letters.

We look at the most common four-letter, three-letter, and two-letter N surnames in America in recent years.

We also investigate whether anybody in the United States is named simply “N”.

Using The 2010 U.S. Census

We used the 2010 U.S. Census to look at the numbers for these names.

That allowed us to grab the top ten in each category of four, three, and two-letter names.

The 2010 census also gives a breakdown of how people reported their ethnicity. Some of these names have at least tiny percentages of all the possible ethnic categories.

We’ve included the top two ethnicities in the tables below when the second is above 20%. The first listed ethnicity has the higher percentage.

Most Common Four Letter Last Names Starting With N

Neal is the most common four-letter surname starting with N in America.

There were over 91 thousand people named Neal in the USA in 2010.

Last NameNumberMostly
Nash58,714White, Black
Neal91,694White, Black
Noel31,768White, Black
Nunn16,769White, Black

People named Neal reported for several different heritages in the 2010 census. This was the breakdown:

  • White: 62%
  • Black: 32%
  • Hispanic: 2%

The name can have several origins. Neal was brought into England by the Normans during the Norman Conquest.

The meaning derives from a Latin-based nickname for a dark-haired person.

But this spelling may also be a variant for the common Irish name of O’Neill. The meaning comes from the old Gaelic word for a chief or warrior (niadh).

Nash broke down as 69% white and 25% black in the 2010 census.

When the origins are English, it is a variant of the name of Ash. Early bearers in England would have lived near an Ash tree.

Noel is the third name in this top-ten section with over thirty thousand bearers. The breakdown was like this:

  • White: 60%
  • Black: 34%
  • Hispanic: 3%

The name has French origins. The meaning comes from the French word for Christmas. It may have been conferred on people born in that season.

Most Common Three Letter Last Names Starting With N

You can see in the table below that three-letter last names starting with N are generally less common than in the previous section.

Last NameNumberMostly
Nam6,244Asian & PI
Nez4,827American Indian
Ngo33,005Asian & PI

Ngo is the most common three-letter surname starting with N in the United States. It had about thirty thousand bearers in 2010.

People named Ngo reported as about 96% Asian or Pacific Islander.

In this case, the name is predominantly Vietnamese or Chinese in origin.

Nez is one of the few Native American names to make our series of articles on short names in the United States.

About 92% of people named Nez in the census ticked the box for “American Indian”.

Two Letter Last Names Starting With N

I can’t give you the top ten two-letter names starting with N.

That’s because there are only a total of five examples in the 2010 U.S. census.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few more two-letter N family names in America. It’s just that other names didn’t have at least one hundred bearers in 2010.

The U.S. National Archives only publishes details of surnames with one hundred or more bearers. Here is a summary of the five names from the census:

Last NameNumberMostly
Ne243Asian & PI, White
Ng31,210Asian & PI
Ni4,624Asian & PI
No1,349Asian & PI
Ny447Asian & PI

Ng is the most common two-letter name starting with N in the United States.

About 93% declared as Asian or Pacific Islander in the census. The name Ng is of Chinese origin.

Most of the top names here are predominantly Asian or Pacific Islander.

However, Ne has a more distributed profile:

  • Asian & PI: 44%
  • White: 36%
  • Black: 6%

N As A One-Letter Last Name

Statistics for the name “N” aren’t in the published U.S. census of 2010. That means that even if it exists in the country, there weren’t one hundred people with the name.

Could there be a few families with “N” as their name in the United States?

The late mathematician A. Ross Eckler conducted a study of one-letter names in the 1970s using telephone directories.

You may be too young to remember telephone directories stacked on the hall table. Here’s a picture:

The entries were formatted as lists under the name.

Eckler pointed out that many examples in the books were errors that came from reversing initials and last names.

And he only found one entry for N. The first name was listed as Verna and the address was in Chicago, Illinois.

Could this be a typographic error for someone with an initial M?

For example, could the correct name be “N Verna” instead of “Verna N”?

Probably. The surname Verna is of Italian origin.

Other Surnames That Start With N

If you want to look at more names, check out these articles:

Index Of Other Short Last Names


Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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